Housing Health and Safety Rating System

Legislative framework
HHSRS categories of housing hazard
Technical assessment and scoring
Local authority general duty and powers to intervene

Legislative framework

The condition of all housing is now subject to Part 1 of the Housing Act 2004 and the evidence-based risk assessment process of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS), on which local authorities must base enforcement decisions. This applies to all types of residential premises, whether or not any amenities are shared.

Following a complaint, or for any other reason, a local authority may arrange to inspect premises to determine whether a category 1 or 2 hazard exists.

HHSRS categories of housing hazard

HHSRS assesses twenty-nine categories of housing hazard – damp and mould growth; excess cold; excess heat; asbestos (and MMF); biocides; carbon monoxide and fuel combustion products; lead; radiation; uncombusted fuel gas; volatile organic compounds; crowding and space; entry by intruders; lighting; noise; domestic hygiene, sanitation and drainage; water supply; falls associated with baths etc; falling on level surfaces etc; falling on stairs etc; falls between levels; electrical hazards; fire; flames, hot surfaces etc; collision and entrapment; explosions; position and operability of amenities etc; and structural collapse and falling elements.

Technical assessment and scoring

Technical assessment is a two-stage process, addressing first the likelihood of an occurrence and then the range of probable harm outcomes. These two factors are combined using a standard method to give a score in respect of each hazard. HHSRS does not provide a single score for the dwelling as a whole or, in the case of multiply occupied dwellings, for the building as a whole.

The scores from different hazards cannot be meaningfully aggregated. There is no strong evidential basis for aggregating hazard scores, and to attempt to do this would make far more difficult the assessment of likelihood and spread of harm of hazards. However, the presence of a number of individual category 2 hazards may be a factor in an authority’s decision to take action.

Hazards are scored in bands, from band A, the most severe, to band J. The relationship between these bands and category 1 and category 2 is prescribed in Regulations made under the Act. Category 1 hazards are those rated in bands A-C. Category 2 hazards are those rated band D and lower. Category 1 hazards trigger a local authority's duty under section 5 to take the appropriate enforcement action. Category 2 hazards can be dealt with under the authority's discretionary powers, which are set out in section 7.

Local authority general duty and powers to intervene

The 2004 Act gives local authorities powers to intervene where they consider housing conditions to be unacceptable, on the basis of the impact of health and safety hazards on the most vulnerable potential occupant. The 2004 Act puts authorities under a general duty to take appropriate action in relation to a category 1 hazard. Where they have a general duty to act, they must take the most appropriate of the following courses of action:

  • serve an improvement notice in accordance with section 11
  • make a prohibition order in accordance with section 20
  • serve a hazard awareness notice in accordance with section 28
  • take emergency remedial action under section 40 or make an emergency prohibition order under section 43
  • make a demolition order under section 265 of the Housing Act 1985 as amended
  • declare a clearance area by virtue of section 289 of the 1985 Act as amended.